Many dragonfly species in The Netherlands declined in the 20th century because of acidification, eutrophication, and desiccation of lotic and lentic habitats and canalization of streams and rivers. These pressures peaked in the 1970s, when 26 of 65 native species had an unfavorable conservation status on the 1997 Dutch Red List. Since the 1980s, environmental regulations have led to improved water quality, and any habitat restoration projects have been carried out. We used standardized monitoring data (1999–2013) and unstandardized observations (1991–2013) to investigate how dragonflies have changed in the last 20 y on a national scale. We compared trends of dragonfly species from different habitat types and with southern vs northern distribution in Europe. Dragonflies recovered strongly in The Netherlands in a period of ~20 y, probably because of recent habitat improvements. Lotic species have benefitted more than lentic species, and southern species have more positive trends than northern species, suggesting that climate change has contributed to the recovery. Dragonflies were resilient and able to quickly recover when their habitats were restored. Recovery has led to a better conservation status for many species. Unstandardized data delivered results consistent with those from monitoring data and had greater statistical power to detect trends because many more unstandardized data than standardized data were available. Thus, when the goal is to provide a general overview of changes in dragonflies, unstandardized data can outperform standardized abundance data. However, abundance data may deliver complementary information for individual species. Our results support the suitability of dragonflies as indicators of freshwater habitat condition, but they recover more strongly in The Netherlands than many other insects, possibly because of their higher dispersal abilities or different habitat requirements.
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